Directed by: #GuyDavies
Written by: Guy Davies
The youthful desire to escape has a much more tantalising connotation in today’s current crisis of pandemic social distancing as Guy Davies’ coming of age drama of teenage angst and love is a reminder to those precious moments that make our adolescence such a defining time of our lives. Philophobia follows the story of Kai, an ambitious student who dreams who leaving his small town for greater opportunities, spending his days with his best mates Sammy and Megsy and growing enamoured with the gorgeous enigmatic girl next door Grace. Davies’ script follows the classic coming-of-age high school drama tropes and the film does little to change up the formula but its the compelling performances and chemistry between the cast that makes Kai’s story one worth watching.
Small town big dreams is the general feel coming from Davies’ direction capturing the characters’ layered feelings of anxiety, hope and despair about what the future may hold. Kai’s desire to leave coming into conflict with other character’s realities, such as Megsy’s bad grades or Sammy’s lack of options. Though Philophobia expands the scope of its story to explore many positive defining moments for these friendships such as parties, leaver’s pranks and conversing with the aid of cannabis. The film splits its time though with a growing attraction to Grace, with her and Kai growing closer despite the presence of her intimidating abusive boyfriend Kenner. Joshua Glenister and Kim Spearman have terrific chemistry but the development of their romance follows conventional beats, it reminded me of Peter Parker and Mary Jane (without the spider powers) and at times feels removed from the rest of Kai’s story despite being so critical.
Philophobia means the fear of falling in love, Davies’ intention for both Grace and Kai are to show how their connection to one another is out of their control and potentially dangerous. Not just from Kenner’s jealous behaviour but how Kai becomes more focused on Grace than his academics, his love for her having the potential to sabotage him. It’s not a toxic relationship but shows that overwhelming power that love can have on young people, where it becomes their only focus and all the emotional toll that comes with it. Kai almost feeling this need to “save” her as Davies uses the two to explore all of that classic high school angst with some added symbolism. Kai’s dreaming isn’t just for his hypothetical plans for when he leaves home; the film tinkers with reality as Kai’s daydreams reveal his innermost desires when it comes to Grace. These visual additions give Philophobia an edge in making itself seem different but the effect isn’t as deep as it could be.
While the characters are desperate to move beyond it, Stefan Yap’s cinematography makes the locations gorgeous with a pleasing use of the golden hour. The youthful idealism of the characters given that extra layer of possibility through optimistic orange light but also each scene just feeling very intimate to Kai’s story and able to expand upon his relationships whether it be night or day. Though Glenister and Spearman’s chemistry make the romantic scenes all the more intense, the supporting performances from Jack Gouldbourne as comic relief Megsy, Alexander Lincoln as Kenner and Harry Lloyd as the classic archetypal supportive teacher Mr Jackson make the world of Philophobia feel more tangible and lived in. The characters and performances are the core to what makes Davies’ film so compelling while his script has many exceptional moments exploring familiar ideas, Philophobia struggles to have all of these threads work together in unison.